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Character Actors I Love: Maury Chaykin

July 28, 2010 1 comment

The key to being a great character actor is the ability to blend in seamlessly to your roles. Essentially you become charismatic wallpaper, there to offer support to those who got their names on the poster in the lobby. You shouldn’t overshadow the leads, but rather by your own solid performance make them look even better. The character actor is the utility player, the designated hitter, the guy with a lot of team jerseys in his closet but rarely a Super Bowl ring. Oftentimes, being Canadian helps.

Maury Chaykin, who passed away Tuesday on his 61st birthday, was the epitomy of that sort of actor. He was never flashy or showy, a solid supporting player that you’ve seen in a dozen different things and whose name you never remember, the embodiment of the “Hey! It’s That Guy” feature back on the now-defunct Fametracker. He showed up frequently in a variety of Canadian television and film productions, and the brilliant Atom Egoyan utilized him well in three of his finest films (“Exotica,” “The Sweet Hereafter” and “Where the Truth Lies”), giving him roles that let him chew on a greater amount of emotion than he was normally allowed.

He popped up in American television also, including a particularly twisty episode of “CSI” and an episode of “Boston Legal” which would have been superb if it hadn’t played in a sandbox so similiar to other David E. Kelley productions. He got his showiest role in the short-lived A&E version of “Nero Wolfe,” where he got to play the blustery, stubborn and ego-driven detective. Though not a true physical match for the role, Chaykin gave it everything he had, and by the end of the show’s brief life, he seemed as comfortable and at-ease with the role as any actor had the right.

You may not notice Chaykin’s absence from film and television, because that wasn’t his job, to be noticed. But the loss will be felt, like that missing piece from a room that you know you enjoyed, but now you can’t remember what it was.